This recipe takes the traditional Jewish noodle casserole known as kugel and smothers it with the rich, cheesy, peppery goodness of Roman cacio e pepe. It’s simple to make and comforting as heck.

david caricature

Why Our Testers Loved This

Our testers loved that this rich, creamy casserole brought back comforting memories from their youth of the traditional Jewish dish, despite being made with regular pasta and a trio of cheeses. Everyone was pleased that it made plenty and reheated well.

What You’ll Need to Make This

  • Freshly ground black pepper–If you are spice-averse, you can reduce this slightly, but keep in mind that the pepper is essential to balancing the flavor of the cheese. Some of our testers were even requesting more, pepper, so feel free to increase it, if you prefer.
  • Pasta–Any long type of pasta will work here, but avoid short shapes as the casserole won’t stick together properly. For a more authentic noodle kugel, you could use egg noodles.

How to Make This Recipe

  1. Heat the oven to 350°F. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.
  2. Combine the ricotta, mascarpone, and 2 cups Pecorino in a large bowl. Add the pepper and salt. Cook the pasta in boiling water until barely al dente, then drain and add to the cheese mixture, stirring well to coat all of the pasta.
  3. Coat a 9-by-13-inch rectangular or large oval baking dish with butter. Scoop the cheesy pasta into the baking dish and top with the remaining Pecorino. Bake until crispy and golden brown on top.
  4. Sprinkle with more black pepper. Cut into squares and serve.

Recipe FAQs

What’s a kugel?

Kugel is a creamy casserole that’s traditionally made with egg noodles or potatoes and is often served on Jewish holidays. There are many variations on the traditional kugel, and you can find it made with sweet or savory ingredients.

What should I serve with noodle kugel?

Our testers found that this rich baked pasta needed only a side salad to accompany it. Try a citrus fennel salad to balance out the richness of the dish.

For a more traditional Jewish meal, serve the kugel with potato latkes to start. You could also serve it with a meat, like fried chicken or beef brisket, but keep in mind that the meal would not be kosher, as it combines dairy and meat.

Can I make my own ricotta?

Certainly. You’ll need whole milk, yogurt, salt, and lemon juice, and follow this homemade ricotta recipe. Keep in mind that ricotta does need some resting time to form the curds, so make it at least a few hours, and up to 4 days before assembling the kugel.

Helpful Tips

  • Save 1/4 cup of your pasta water before draining the noodles. If your kugel mixture is a little dry, toss in a couple of tablespoons to help bring it all together.
  • For easier clean-up, line your baking dish with aluminum foil and butter or spray the foil with nonstick cooking spray.
  • The recipe can be halved and baked in an 8 or 9-inch square baking dish.
  • Store leftovers in a sealed container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. The kugel can be reheated, covered with foil, in a 300°F oven until heated through.

More Great Baked Pasta Recipes

Write a Review

If you make this recipe, or any dish on LC, consider leaving a review, a star rating, and your best photo in the comments below. I love hearing from you.–David

Oval dish with noodle kugel, a cheese and pepper casserole with fettuccine and ricotta and Pecorino cheeses baked golden.

Cacio e Pepe Noodle Kugel

5 / 3 votes
This modern take on noodle kugel combines the flavors of Rome's famous pasta dish with the comfort of a rich baked kugel. Cooked linguine is mixed with ricotta, mascarpone, Pecorino Romano, and plenty of black pepper and baked until crisp and golden.
David Leite
CourseSides
CuisineAmerican
Servings8 to 12 servings
Calories823 kcal
Prep Time25 minutes
Cook Time50 minutes
Total Time1 hour 15 minutes

Ingredients 

  • 2 pounds whole milk ricotta, whipped in a food processor or stand mixer until smooth
  • 1 pound mascarpone
  • 3 cups Pecorino Romano cheese, divided
  • 2 tablespoons freshly ground black pepper, plus more for garnish
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 pounds dried linguine, fettuccine, or spaghetti
  • 1 tablespoon (1/2 oz) butter

Instructions 

  • Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C).
  • Bring a large pot of water to a boil and generously season with salt.

  • In a large bowl, combine the ricotta, mascarpone, and 2 cups Pecorino, stirring well to combine. Stir in the black pepper and salt.
  • Stir the pasta into the water and cook until just barely al dente, 7 to 10 minutes. (The pasta will finish cooking in the casserole.) Drain and transfer the pasta to the seasoned cheese mixture, stirring well to thoroughly coat the pasta.

  • Coat a 9-by-13-inch (23-by-33-cm) rectangular or large oval baking dish with the butter. Transfer the pasta-cheese mixture to the baking dish and top with the remaining 1 cup Pecorino Romano cheese. Bake until the top and sides are crisp and golden brown, 40 to 50 minutes.
  • Sprinkle with more black pepper for garnish, cut into squares, and serve.

Notes

  1. Pasta water–Save 1/4 cup of your pasta water before draining the noodles. If your kugel mixture is a little dry, toss in a couple of tablespoons to help bring it all together.
  2. Easy clean-up–For easier clean-up, line your baking dish with aluminum foil and butter or spray the foil with nonstick cooking spray.
  3. Halving–The recipe can be halved and baked in an 8 or 9-inch square baking dish.
  4. Storage and reheating–Store leftovers in a sealed container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. The kugel can be reheated, covered with foil, in a 300°F oven until heated through.
Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner...Life Cookbook

Adapted From

Breakfast Lunch Dinner . . .Life

Buy On Amazon

Nutrition

Serving: 1 portionCalories: 823 kcalCarbohydrates: 76 gProtein: 36 gFat: 38 gSaturated Fat: 23 gMonounsaturated Fat: 3 gTrans Fat: 0.1 gCholesterol: 118 mgSodium: 897 mgFiber: 3 gSugar: 6 g

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Tried this recipe?Mention @leitesculinaria or tag #leitesculinaria!
Recipe © 2017 Missy Robbins | Carrie King. Photo © 2017 Evan Sung. All rights reserved.

Recipe Testers’ Reviews

I’m not sure I’ve ever turned down kugel or cacio e pepe, so this noodle kugel is dangerous. Very dangerous. Needless to say I cut the recipe in half so I could exercise some self control. I just threw the whole thing in an 8-inch-square baking dish and baked.

Speaking of self control, I let it stand about 10 minutes before digging in. I got 4 very generous servings from half a batch. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

This recipe is super easy. I whipped the ricotta for about a minute on the highest setting of my stand mixer using the wire whip attachment. If I was super lazy, I would have added the mascarpone, Pecorino, and pepper right to the mixer for a 30-second blitz, but stirring with a large spatula works just fine too.

I added only half the salt since the Pecorino was plenty salty. For ease of mixing, make sure the pasta (I used fettuccine) is still rather warm. Use tongs to make sure every strand gets coated.

The finished product is super rich and cheesy and salty, which is just fine by me. The cheese does get a bit curdly looking and it doesn’t really cut into clean squares, but I think that was me. I may have baked it a bit long to get those crispy edges and a crunchy cheese topping.

Don’t cut the amount of pepper. It’s not too much, especially if it’s freshly ground. Also, it reheats well if you take the chill off slowly. Oh and you can totally sell this to a preschooler as cheesy noodles.

Taste memory can be an amazing thing. The aroma, the look of a dish, the taste, can all transport you to another place and time. This cheesy noodle kugel did just that for me.

On one hand, it took me back to my youth. I don’t have a lot of memories of food from when I was growing up. My mother worked more than full time, which didn’t leave much time for cooking once she got home. However, one thing that I can remember, and I do remember fondly, is her kugel.

I was a bit skeptical because the kugel I knew was made with egg noodles, but I was willing to give this recipe a chance. I’m so glad that I did. I used a favorite imported spaghetti. The end result tasted just like I remembered my mom’s kugel tasting. It was not heavy in any way, something that I had been concerned with, using spaghetti instead of egg noodles.

The second place that I was transported to with each bite of this kugel, and a place that I was hoping to revisit by making this, was Rome. Cacio e pepe is a traditional Roman dish, one which we were lucky enough to enjoy this past fall in the beautiful capital of Italy. If I closed my eyes, I could imagine us sitting in a trattoria, sipping a glass of house wine, and enjoying a bowl of cacio e pepe.

I divided all of the ingredients, and made half a recipe in a 9-by-9-inch Pyrex dish. It could have fed 6 people, especially with a refreshing salad on the side.

I made a salad with Cara Cara oranges, thinly sliced red onions, arugula, and toasted pecans. It was a wonderful meal. One well worth repeating, especially when I want to revisit either place in time.

This twist on the classic cacio e pepe recipe is very quick and easy to put together, has a relatively fast bake time, and tastes delicious! I made this during the last (hopefully!) Nor’easter to rumble through New Jersey and we were all looking forward to a warm, filling, and yummy dinner.

My husband and two teen sons described the noodle kugel recipe as “delicious,” “rich without being too heavy,” “creamy and cheesy,” and “love the crunchy topping.” I definitely think this can be a “make-ahead” dish. I will keep this in my repertoire of recipes that I can prepare in the morning and bake at night.

This baked cacio e pepe noodle kugel works well as a main course with just a salad or as a side dish with ham or chicken. It would also be a great pot-luck casserole as I think this would be a real crowd pleaser.

I saved about 4 tablespoons of the pasta water and added it to the cheese and pasta when I tossed all together. I think it made a difference in the ease in which it all came together and made it a bit lighter and smoother. I used linguine and I think the recipe’s suggestion to use linguine, spaghetti, or fettuccine is spot on as any other pasta shape would make this dish too heavy.

I dread the thought of cleaning baked-on cheese from my casserole dish so I lined the pan with aluminum foil and sprayed it. The dish came out perfect and my cleaning time was cut substantially! This makes A LOT but it reheated very well.

This dish took my Jewish heritage and my enjoyment of Cacio e Pepe and combined them into a kugel-y sort of a dish that’s both flavorful and pleasing. Despite the 3+ pounds of cheese, dare I say it could use more?! My tasters and I agreed that, while it was certainly tasty, cheesier would be tastier!

It took substantially longer than the stated 35 minutes of baking time to get to golden brown and crispy top and sides, and it was actually the bottom that browned to golden first. I removed it from the oven after 50 minutes. In addition to the comments about more cheese, please!, it was also important to pepper atop generously as pictured, or it did not seem peppery enough.

Personally, I would have loved it served with almost any simply-prepared green vegetable or a salad, both for the color and for the texture or crunch. And in case you are on the kugel fence, one of my tasters, after having eaten their initial portion, refilled their plate, and said, “It kept staring at me so I had to eat it, and it’s delicious.” Enjoy!




About David Leite

I count myself lucky to have received three James Beard Awards for my writing as well as for Leite’s Culinaria. My work has also appeared in The New York Times, Martha Stewart Living, Saveur, Bon Appétit, Gourmet, Food & Wine, Yankee, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, The Washington Post, and more.


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2 Comments

  1. This recipe sounds like the perfect cure for our cold and rainy days in Georgia.

    Would you suggest the best method for preparation to freeze this dish? Cook first, partially cook, or do not cook, before freezing? I would like to have on the ready.
    Wishing everyone happy holidays!

    P.S. What is the proper pronunciation of your name, Leite? Many thanks, in advance, Sue

    1. Hi, Sue. While we didn’t freeze and reheat the kugel as part of our testing, I did some research and you can freeze kugel. Simply let it cool, wrap it tightly in a plastic wrap then foil, and freeze. Reheat the kugel by removing the plastic and foil and baking it in a 350°F oven for about 20 minutes. Watch so that the top doesn’t burn, though, because of the cheese.

      My last name is pronounced “leet” in English, and “late” in Portuguese!

      Happy holidays to you, too!